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Cover of Unholy Catholic Ireland by Hugh Turpin
Unholy Catholic Ireland
Religious Hypocrisy, Secular Morality, and Irish Irreligion
Hugh Turpin

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September 2022
344 pages.
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503613157
Paperback ISBN: 9781503633131

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There are few instances of a contemporary Western European society more firmly welded to religion than Ireland is to Catholicism. For much of the twentieth century, to be considered a good Irish citizen was to be seen as a good and observant Catholic. Today, the opposite may increasingly be the case. The Irish Catholic Church, once a spiritual institution beyond question, is not only losing influence and relevance; in the eyes of many, it has become something utterly desacralized. In this book, Hugh Turpin offers an innovative and in-depth account of the nature and emergence of "ex-Catholicism"—a new model of the good, and secular, Irish person that is being rapidly adopted in Irish society.

Using rich quantitative and qualitative research methods, Turpin explains the emergence and character of religious rejection in the Republic. He examines how numerous factors—including economic growth, social liberalization, attenuated domestic religious socialization, the institutional scandals and moral collapse of the Church, and the Church's lingering influence in social institutions and laws—have interacted to produce a rapid growth in ex-Catholicism. By tracing the frictions within and between practicing Catholics, cultural Catholics, and ex-Catholics in a period of profound cultural change and moral reckoning, Turpin shows how deeply the meanings of being religious or non-religious have changed in the country once described as "Holy Catholic Ireland."

About the author

Hugh Turpin is Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Social Cohesion at the University of Oxford's School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

"Turpin weaves regression models together with detailed accounts of individual and institutional agency, and with turns of phrase both humorous and profound, to produce our most holistic account of secularization to date. An interdisciplinary gem of a book."

—Jonathan Lanman, Queen's University, Belfast

"This is not only the best, most insightful book on the situation of religion and secularization in contemporary Ireland—it is one of the best, most insightful books written on secularization in general that I have read in a long time. Sharp, engaging, informative, thoughtful, and fascinating—this book is a must for anyone wanting to understand the evaporation of religion in the Western world."

—Phil Zuckerman, Pitzer College